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US-IndianMoundDisput 07-21 0869

City plows beneath Indian site to build Sam’s Club

Bucket loaders and bulldozers are tearing apart a hill that researchers call the foundation of an ancient Native American site to provide fill dirt for a Sam’s Club store, a move that appalls preservationists.

Tribal advocates and state officials say a large stone mound that tops the 200-foot rise was put there a millennium ago by Indians during a religious observance.

Despite a city-commissioned study that found tribal artifacts in the red clay that makes up the mound, Oxford Mayor Leon Smith denies the work by the city is damaging anything important. He said the stones atop the hill are a natural part of what locals call Signal Mountain and were exposed by millions of years of erosion.

"It’s the ugliest old hill in the world," said Smith, who has overseen a mushrooming of big-box stores in this east Alabama city of 15,000 during his seven terms as mayor.

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